Senate advances defense bill after delay
The Senate on Wednesday advanced a sweeping defense policy bill over an initial hurdle after hours of behind-the-scenes haggling.
The Senate voted 84-15 to move the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) toward a floor debate, which could start as soon as Thursday.
The vote was initially scheduled to take place on Wednesday morning, but Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) delayed the vote as Republicans threatened to block the bill because Schumer wanted to include anti-China competitiveness legislation in the defense bill.
That roadblock kept the bill in limbo for hours on Wednesday.
Some Republicans oppose including the competitiveness legislation in the defense bill altogether, while others believed Schumer was trying to make changes to the China legislation to strip out trade language that was included when the Senate passed the bill earlier this year.
Instead, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced on Wednesday night that they had gotten a deal to go to conference on the competitiveness bill.
The bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support earlier this year but has stalled in the House, where there are competing proposals.
The agreement to enter formal negotiations on the China bill also freed up the defense bill. Leadership now needs to work through hundreds of amendments to figure out which potential amendments can get a vote.
Democrats are hoping to finish the defense bill before they leave for the Thanksgiving recess, an ambitious goal given that the bill normally takes roughly two weeks to get to a final vote, or alternatively have a path to finishing the bill once they get back.
“I think what we would like to do would be to finish the NDAA before Thanksgiving, so it could be later this week, it could be into Friday or Saturday, it could be early next week,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “The leader said he would really like to either get NDAA done before Thanksgiving or have it all done before a final passage vote.”